Capped: Contract status of Calder candidates
Hopefully everyone is still distancing as much as possible, because A) it's a good idea, but B) it also means you have more time to read hockey articles! This week, as a result of a request, we are going to be looking at some of the Calder contenders, and checking in on their contract situations. Rookies like Martin Necas, Nick Suzuki, and Jack Hughes – among others – though fantasy relevant, will not be discussed in this article as they still have another two years under contract once the 2019-2020 season concludes. We're going to look at the situations that might cause some fluctuations in value sooner rather than later.
*As a note, the NHL can extend contracts into the fall in order to be valid should the season be concluded later than the first of July.
Cale Makar (D) – Colorado Avalanche
2019-2020 Cap Hit: $880,833 Expires in July 2021
With Colorado's available cap space, and how excellent Makar has looked all season, the lucrative extension is not an if, but a when. Using teammate Sam Girard as a comparable, both Makar and the Avalanche could benefit from making it a longer-term deal, while not surpassing Girard's cap hit too wildly. Makar and the Avalanche will be able to sign the extension as of July first, although there is a possibility that the date for contract extensions gets pushed back due to the extended 2019-2020 season window. In any case, expect this extension to be done sooner rather than later. A seven-year, front-heavy deal, worth $7.5 million per season could make sense all-around.
Quinn Hughes (D) – Vancouver Canucks
2019-2020 Cap Hit: $916,667 Expires in July 2021
The Canucks look to have more cap flexibility in the future than the present, and the likelihood that bridge deals following those given to Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen could see Hughes be the lesser paid of him and Makar between 2021 and 2024. However, that doesn't mean he will be underpaid. A comparison to Zach Werenski would be very apt, and the contract model could work for Hughes as well. A bridge deal without too much of a hit on the AAV, and making it back loaded to have the bargaining power to ensure the money goes up on the next contract.
Victor Olofsson (LW) – Buffalo Sabres
2019-2020 Cap Hit: $767,500 Theoretically expires in July 2020*
Olofsson broke out just in time for a new contract, and as one of the Sabres' over 15 free agents this summer, the cap space will be there to sign a longer-term deal. Working against Olofsson is his 60 career games played, though if Skinner putting up a career year and cashing in for $9 million is what we have to go off of, maybe a shorter track record won't hold Olofsson back too much.
Ethan Bear (D) – Edmonton Oilers
2019-2020 Cap Hit: $720,000 Theoretically expires in July 2020*
Ethan Bear was a big part of Edmonton's blueline last season. The offensive numbers were a good building block, and though he did receive the most offensive zone starts of any defenceman on the team, he also played against the highest quality of competition. In this role, Bear put together some of the better Corsi rates and expected goals percentages on the team. It may take him a few years to fully show his potential, so in the meantime, his contracts will likely trail behind, and his fantasy owners won't have to worry about him being overpaid at any point soon.
Elvis Merzlikins (G) – Columbus Blue Jackets
New Cap Hit: $4,000,000 Expires in July 2022
When Joonas Korpisalo signed his contract, we all expected Elvis to sign a similar deal, or something a slight bit cheaper. When it came out that Columbus gave Merzlikins the higher AAV, that's when the perception started to shift on who may end up having more value next season. Looking at their numbers side by side, the ones on the surface seem to say the goalies were about equal last year, with Elvis having slightly better ratios, but Korpisalo managed the larger workload.
Diving a little deeper though, and Elvis really starts to shine. With the numbers and the contract pointing towards Merzlikins, it would be surprising not to see him being the more valuable own in the Columbus crease by season's end. He won't have the same value as he did last year on his rookie deal, but this is still a contract worth owning.
Ilya Samsonov (G) – Washington Capitals
2019-2020 Cap Hit: $925,000 Expires in July 2021
It seems as though the cap crunch in Washington is going to force Brayden Holtby to walk as a free agent, freeing up the full-time starter role for Samsonov. With that kind of stability with the team in front of him, the 23-year-old Russian netminder should be in an excellent position to shine. In terms of full year numbers though, we should probably expect closer to his quarter one and three numbers rather than the quarter two heater. That should be enough for the Capitals to lock Samsonov up on a long-term deal. Not quite at the size of Andrei Vasilevskiy's deal, but close to what Connor Hellebuyck or John Gibson received.
Mackenzie Blackwood (G) – New Jersey Devils
2019-2020 Cap Hit: $697,500 Theoretically expires in July 2020*
It's Blackwood's net to lose next year, and since he is due a new contract, that should show it. It seems that the odds are Blackwood looks at the new deal signed by Elvis, and goes the shorter contract route. This would allow Blackwood to cash in later when the cap atmosphere is more stable, while allowing New Jersey to ensure that they aren't tied to another longer-term anchor of a contract in net.
Stay safe everyone, and if you have any article topics you are hoping to read about, give me a shout! You can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean for questions, comments, or article requests.
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